Tuesday, February 28, 2012

win32, MFC, WPF, winforms... vs Java/swing

Earliest/lowest support is win32api -- a platform specific C [1] API. No counterpart in Java because JVM hides all platform-specific complexities, though the win32 JVM is written against win32api.

[1] C with Microsoft extensions, but not C++. I guess It's a proprietary language based on ANSI-C.

win32api functions are like system calls AND standard library functions in unix. Plain old C functions, as low-level functions must be. All windows/unix applications rely on system API in C as not every app uses C++.

MFC is a c++ thin object wrapper over win32api functions, therefore platform-specific too. No counterpart in java. Borland used to offer a MFC competitor (viz OWL), but it also relies on win32api. So win32api is a choke-point, but MFC isn't.

Similarly, winforms is also a wrapper over win32api (not over MFC). Unlike MFC, winforms was created for the dotnet virtual machine.

Someone on Stackoverflow said -- Most application frameworks for Windows (at least partially) wrap the win32api. Thus, the .NET and JVM, likewise any other programming languages under Windows, are (or contain) wrapper libraries over win32api.

Winforms and WPF built on top of a virtual machine -- the dotnet framework, and are (partially?) shielded from platform-specific complexities. I think these are like the swing library.

However, winforms is a dotnet wrapper over win32api, therefore faster than WPF.

----------- gcc --------------
http://gcc.gnu.org/wiki/WindowsBuilding

GCC also goes through the choke point viz win32api. Mingw includes
* w32api (not spelt "win.."): This is a bunch of files, a free (compatible) implementation of the MS win32api, equivalent to the Windows SDK, which provides the system-level (OS level?) interface needed by mingw-runtime. It is possible, with some modifications, to use Microsoft’s Platform-SDK instead.

* mingw-runtime (version 3.12 or higher): This is a bunch of files, the equivalent of libc on Unix which provides an interface to Microsoft's C runtime that is shipped with Windows.

--------- how many ways to write an equivalent GUI app -------
* write a C app against win32api direclty
* write a c++ app against MFC (wrapper over win32api) -- no virtual machine at all
* write a c#/c++ winforms app, running in the virtual machine
* write a c# WPF app, running in the virtual machine
* write a mingw C/C++ app, against w32api -- no virtual machine at all
* write a swing app, running in the JVM

However, if you want a windows app without a GUI, then you need a console app. You can use C++ without any of these complexities. Just use STL/boost. Windows programming != GUI programming.

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